City considers cap on short-term rentals – Coastal Observer


City considers cap on short-term rentals

A request for permits for this house on the harbor led city officials to discover the flaw in their ordinance.

Scores of short-term vacation rentals have operated in Georgetown for years.

As that number increases, City Council Member Jonathan Angner is worried how it will change the city.

“Georgetown is not the secret it was before,” Angner said during a City Council workshop last week. “You know what’s going to happen? That sweet little community that I bought into nine years ago to raise my daughters is going to have a bunch of people that are transients moving on.” 

Long-time residents will then face higher taxes due to soaring property values, Angner added.

The city discovered last summer that a 2017 change to its zoning ordinance had defined short-term rentals but not included them as a permitted use in any zoning district. The error was found when a waterfront property owner who planned a bed and breakfast – which is permitted – asked about offering short-term rentals.

A proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance to make the rentals legal would require that property owners who offer rentals of 30 days or less get a “short-term vacation rental permit” in addition to a business license.

The proposal includes an initial fee of $500 for whole house rentals, and $250 for accessory dwellings and owner-occupied rentals. There would also be yearly renewal fees.

It also requires each rental have a local contact person.

“The scary thing is, right now we have short-terms vacation rentals operating illegally in the city,” the zoning administrator, Peter Gaytan, said. “We’re not able to do our safety inspections, our fire inspections, our building inspections.”

Gaytan tracked down 61 active short-term rentals in the city, but he suspects there are a lot more.

The proposed ordinance includes a cap of 250 permits.

Angner questioned why the proposed cap was so high if there are only 61 active rentals right now.

Mayor Carol Jayroe said it was council members who came up with 250.

Angner suggested starting with 120 permits and then reconsidering that if the number of applications neared the limit. He also said council could consider amending the ordinance as permit applications increased.

“If we see a problem we can address it,” Jayroe said. “But I don’t want to have to talk about the number every single six months. That’s just me.”

Gaytan suggested no cap. 

Angner questioned Gaytan’s logic.

“Let’s not protect this neighborhood until we have a problem?” he said. “We’re not elected to wait until there’s problems to address it.”

Angner also questioned what would happen if the ordinance passed with a cap of 250 and the number of permit applications the city receives exceeded that.

Gaytan said other municipalities have waiting lists. The town of Mount Pleasant caps its short-term rentals at 400 and has a waiting list of 250.

Jayroe said they can’t turn away people who have been renting out their property for years.

“It’s our fault we didn’t monitor it,” she added.



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